Merkel welcomes EU-Turkey meeting to improve ties

January 20, 2018

SOFIA (Reuters) – Germany’s Angela Merkel welcomed on Saturday a Bulgarian plan to host a European Union-Turkey working meeting to try to improve strained ties and clear the ground for an eventual possible summit.

Bulgaria, which currently holds the EU presidency, is preparing a meeting between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and EU leaders Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Antonio Tajani in the Black Sea city of Varna, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told reporters on Saturday.

“This meeting is a good chance to speak with the Turkish President on all issues,” Chancellor Merkel told a joint news conference with Borissov in Sofia, adding “we need orderly relations” with Turkey to solve the problems.

Borissov said the meeting could address Turkish concerns over payments from the EU under the migrant deal, as well as souring relations between Ankara and some big European Union member states, mainly over human rights concerns.

EU accession talks with Turkey were frozen in December 2016.

On Friday, the Turkish minister for EU affairs said Ankara would reject any offer of partnership with the European Union that falls short of membership, warning that the current impasse gave Turkey no reason to maintain its migrant deal with the bloc.

He also said the EU was not honoring all parts of a deal to stem the flow of migrants westwards from Turkey in return for 3 billion euros ($3.67 billion) in financial aid to Turkey and other support.

“I think one meeting between us where we can discuss, move forward and create conditions (to see) if it would be decided at a later stage to host a bigger meeting,” Borissov said. “Such a meeting would be for the good of all of us.”

Speaking in Sofia last week, European Commission President Juncker said the EU and Turkey would see no progress in their relations as long as Turkey held journalists in prison.

Authorities in Turkey have jailed more than 50,000 people and shut down some 130 media outlets in a major crackdown after a failed military coup in 2016.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Clelia Oziel)

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